Top 5 Halloween Movies for the non Horror Fan

I’m not a big horror movie fan, though I am married to one. Here’s our top 5 favorite Halloween themed films that provide him with enough spook and me with enough laughs.

5) Beetlejuice- While I grew up with a more family friendly Beetlejuice via the Saturday morning cartoon, Keaton is hilarious as the ghost with the most. Burton perfectly blends the right amount of quirk and goth to make this one of his strongest films. Those unfamiliar with the film will be surprised to see Geena Davis and a crazy young Alec Baldwin as the main protagonists as the newly dead having to figure out the afterlife. I approve of any ghosts that use Harry Belafonte in their haunting.

4) Young Frankenstein- Mel Brooks’ spoof on the Universal Frankenstein films of 30s is one of his strongest works. With Brooks regulars like Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn the cast had such a fun time Brooks kept writing new scenes so they wouldn’t have to stop filming.

3) Evil Dead 2- Definitely the most gruesome entry on the list, this campy classic has a strong sense of humor as well. Bruce Campbell pays tribute to the Three Stooges with lots of physical comedy as he fights his own evil hand. Maybe not for those with a weak stomach (there’s so much blood Raimi had to start changing the color to avoid an X rating) but it’s one of the best combinations of horror and comedy in film history.

2) The Addams Family & Addams Family Value- The all together ookey family is the perfect fit for modern times, allowed to be as creepy as they want. With strong plots and endless quotable dialogue, these films stand out from the many classic television show movie adaptations that flooded theaters in the 90s. Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and a very young Christina Ricci all deliver memorable performances and the special effects help bring the whole kooky gang to life.

1) Shaun of the Dead- this zombie spoof has one of the cleverest scripts of the past decade. Just as much about growing up as it is about the zombocalypse, Shaun of The Dead should what real people would do when faced with the undead. Filled with plenty of references to classic zombie films, and peppered with callbacks to itself, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.


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Also, plan on livetweeting Hubby’s Romero movie marathon @tuxedopengin

There are few little engines that could type stories in film history like the making of the Evil Dead series. After making countless Super 8 shorts in high school, longtime friends Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and crew decided to self-produce their first feature length, the now classic (and soon to be remade) Evil Dead. They started out hitting up dentists for funds and having to teach themselves about international distribution and today Sam Raimi directed a major superhero trilogy and Bruce Campbell is the most beloved “B-movie” actor of his generation, hell, even their assistant editor (Joel Coen) found greatness with a string of Oscar winning films. It goes to show that to succeed in show business all you need is a dream and a lot a fake blood.
While Hubby and I have a lot in common, one thing we don’t see eye to eye on is horror movies, as he loves them (the crappier the better in some cases), while I find them mostly boring. The Evil Dead trilogy is a good compromise for us. Like with sci-fi, I appreciate horror films that have a sense of humor to them and it’s clear that Raimi and crew realized early on how ridiculous their concept and limited means were and decided to just have fun with it, with each installment being more ridiculous than the last. They thumb their nose at continuity and always have Ash in a different predicament than the one we last saw him in.
In Evil Dead we follow a group of friends who are vacationing in a cabin in the woods when they unleash an uncontrollable evil when playing a translation of the Naturan Demanto, aka the Book of the Dead. One by one they are possessed until only Ash (Bruce Campbell) is left mortal. He must fight off his sister, his best friend and his girlfriend but safely leaves the cabin, or does he? This is the most straight horror film in the series with some gruesome scenes including the chick who gets raped by a bunch of trees and milk spewing demons (Raimi’s way of getting around an X rating for too much blood). However, the film’s leading man provides a hint of heart missing from many horror films, as Ash struggles with destroying the woman he loves’ body even though doing so will determine his safety.
In Evil Dead II Raimi and crew obviously saw what a comedy goldmine they had on their hands. We find a very different Ash who had been spending a romantic weekend in the woods with his girlfriend, gone are the friends and his sister, when he discovers a taped translation of the Book of the Dead, now called Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. When Linda is possessed, Ash must kill her and bury her but he discovers evil has taken control of HIS HAND. This one has a lot of Bruce Campbell on his own and he’s really a joy to watch. From his epic battle against his own hand, to losing it as he realizes the entire room is laughing at him, Campbell is phenomenal. I always felt he could have been a much bigger deal if he went legit, but he would have had a lot less fun along the way. Ash interacting with the lamp always cracks me up. Eventually he teams up with real owner of the cabin’s daughter and she recites a spell to remove the spirits and ends up sending Ash to the Middle Ages where he is herald as a hero, much to his dismay, opps!
In Army of Darkness we find Ash not a hero in the Middle Ages but a slave who is later seen as a god when he demonstrates his mighty boomstick. Despite all the pampering, he wants to return to his own time and his job at S-Mart. To do so he must retrieve the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis and speak a specific phrase, which he of course forgets causing an army of the dead to rise. This one is the most comical of the three, with many Stooge inspired moments. You also get to see a lot more of Ash the man in this film as he fights various versions of himself. We gets to see Ash as kind of a blowhard, but a blowhard with great one-liners. I saw Evil Dead The Musical (2nd row splatterzone!) when in was in New York and was pleased to see them work in all of Ash’s great zingers from this one into the script even though the plot was a combination of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2.
A remake is coming our way and while Raimi and Campbell are on board with it, I can’t help but be a little wary. A lot of the appeal that has led to its diehard fanbase is due to its campiness and tongue in cheek sense of humor. They got away with a lot because they weren’t Hollywood films so it will be interesting to see what translates.

Bubba Ho-Tep

I originally saw Bubba Ho-Tep in the theater, going in with no clue what the movie was about or who Bruce Campbell was. I had heard of Evil Dead but I’m not a horror movie person, so I hadn’t tried hard to seek it out. My initial reaction to this film was “What in the word?” but quickly began to appreciate the insane concept. I have since met and married a man who lists Evil Dead 2 as his favorite movie, and I now fully respect the awesomeness that is Bruce Campbell.

Bruce Campbell plays the king himself, Elvis Presley, who is living out his remaining days in a nursing home in Texas. He explains that he grew tired of his fame and traded lives with an Elvis impersonator, only to have his replacement croak on the toilet. He missing his former life, and wishes he could reconnect with Priscilla and his daughter, but knows that isn’t possible. He feels useless, knowing he is seen as a crazy, old fool, and is depressed about the probably cancerous growth on his withered penis. He finds a kindred spirit in Jack, a black man who claims he’s JFK (Ossie Davis) and that the government altered his appearance to keep his from revealing the truth to the American public. They discover a soul-sucking mummy is attempting to penetrate the nursing home and they are the only ones who can strop.

What I find so fascinating about this is that there’s a really touching story about the embarrassing aspects of the aging process, about a legend finding himself useless, about two lost soul finding each other at the end of their lives – and then they added mummies. And not just a mummy, a redneck mummy. I really believe if you strip the mummy parts from the story, there’s a really decent drama there, but this is Bruce Campbell we’re talking about.

One question that bubbles under the surface of this film is “Are these men really the icons they claim they are?” While Campbell as Elvis is less of a stretch than Ossie Davis as a JFK, both are so committed to this reality that you accept their story. The two trade some of their more famous quotes and talk about their former lives. Another thing you have to wonder is, if Elvis had lived, would old age been much different for him. Many big stars blow through their money and find themselves in some budget facility. Campbell’s Elvis admits he made mistakes and trusted the wrong people, maybe the king would have become another lonely man in a nursing home. We always feel bad when legends die young, but we, as a people cannot handle an old, sick, impotent Elvis.

Many don’t realize their is an artistry to the so bad it’s good movie. It still has to be entertaining, the dialogue – quotable, the characters – compelling. A bad movie is unwatchable, but a so bad it’s good movie can be enjoyed over and over again. I would recommend Bubba Ho-Tep for any “So Bad It’s Good” movie marathon and maybe one day Bruce Campbell will be in a film that garners him more mainstream respect.